Of Beards and Books: An Interview with Patrick Rothfuss
While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Monday, January 11th.
This post originally ran November 17, 2015.
Patrick Rothfuss is the best-selling fantasy author of The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear, and his latest, The Slow Regard of Silent Things.
Rothfuss graciously answered a few questions for Book Riot recently, including questions about the upcoming movie/TV show/game deal for The Kingkiller Chronicles series and his current Worldbuilders fundraiser for Heifer International.
Just as importantly, Patrick Rothfuss also talks about his favorite word (for right now), the charisma bonus for that beard of his, and why reading to his kids is “absolutely fucking magical.”
Nikki Steele: The paperback version The Slow Regard of Silent Things came out today (November 17th). As a long-time fan, I believe Auri is one of the most captivating characters you’ve written. Why do you think she resonates so deeply with fans?
Patrick Rothfuss: That’s something I’ve thought about a lot, because over the years I’ve realized that Auri is universally beloved. People think Elodin is cool. And Bast has a strong following. And Kvothe is the protagonist…
But Auri is different, everyone adores her.
I used to think they loved her because they only glimpsed her from time to time. But that’s not really love. It’s infatuation. It’s a crush. It’s what we feel for the cute barista at the coffee shop. Infatuation is nice, and feels a lot like love. But it’s really not the same thing. Infatuation is a flower. Love is ripe fruit.
I was nervous about writing Slow Regard for just that reason. If the heart of Auri’s appeal was her mysterious nature, explaining her would be the worst thing I could do, narratively speaking.
Of course that only occurred to me about 3/4 of the way through writing the story…
NS: I’d agree that infatuation is initially correct when it comes to Auri, but the possibility for that to turn into a deeper sort of love is what made Slow Regard such a joy to read. Aren’t we all looking for an infatuation that turns into love (or is that just me)?
PR: I think you’re right. And it turns out I was wrong about it just being an infatuation. (Or at least that wasn’t the whole truth of things.)
People seem to relate to Auri in a deeper way than I’d originally thought. She’s a huge mess. She has problems. Her life is… well… it’s kind of terrible. And on top of everything she’s kind of down on herself.
What I didn’t realize is how many of us feel like that every day. I’ve had a *lot* of people email me that over the last year. Or they tell me at book signings. People read the book and say to themselves, “Shit, I thought it was just me.”
I think we’re the silent majority. We’re all quietly broken in our own strange ways. Auri is like our mascot. She has it so much worse than us and she still gets by and manages to stay happy. She’s like a superhero.
NS: You’ve already written on your blog about how the Lionsgate movie/TV/game deal came about for The Kingkiller Chronicles. Now that the news has broken, what are you the most starry-eyed excited about?
PR: It’s hard to say. I’m kind of balanced between excited about the potential of the project, and the knowledge that I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I like to be practical, and the truth is, these deals fall apart all the time. That’s something Auri understands that Kvothe doesn’t. Desire is a dangerous thing….
That said, I’d surely love to see someone build the Eolian….
NS: That’s going to be fun. Also, seriously, just thinking about seeing the Archives gives me the vapors.
PR: Yeah. I hope they’re faithful to the book there. It can’t be a big airy modern space. It’s got to be like a vault entirely walled with books.
NS: Have any dream castings in mind for Kvothe? Any other character in the book?
PR: My only real daydreamy casting over the years has been Natalie Portman for Denna. She’s an amazing actress, and Denna is going to be one of the hardest characters to pull off.
But Portman is 34 now… I don’t think she can play Denna anymore…
NS: Where in the world would you want them to shoot the movie?
PR: Personally, I think right here in Central Wisconsin would be great. Especially for the small-town stuff. It’s got the right landscape, the right kind of trees.
Plus I could drive onto the set every day. That would be nice. It’ll never happen. But it would be nice.
NS: Now, just as you’ve created new worlds for fans, your Worldbuilders charity creating new opportunities for people in the wider world. You’re in year seven of Worldbuilders, correct?
PR: Boy. I’m not entirely sure any more. Maybe eight? I do know we’ve raised more than $3.5 million dollars for Heifer International so far…
We’re off to a really strong start this year too…
NS: How’s it going?
PR: For people who don’t know, the fundraiser works like this: people donate to Worldbuilders and they’re automatically entered to win geeky swag in the lottery. We’re just starting week two and we’re already giving away more than $40,000 of books and games.
(As of Monday November 16th, the total raised for Heifer International is just over $100,000.)
NS: You have stretch goals too, right?
PR: Yeah. We try to spread the word about the charity by doing fun little stunts to catch people’s attention. Like when Hank Green did a music video for us. Or when Myke Cole had Peter V. Brett shave his head.
NS: Anything particularly shiny and fun with those this year?
PR: We’ve got cool stretch goals on the horizon. Authors are reading angry reviews. People trying and failing to read Fox in Socks. Neil Gaiman is going to sing for us…
But the big news is that I’ve given people a vote as to what I’m going to do with my free time for the next two weeks.
I know people are rabid for book 3. But I’ve waited to play Fallout 4 for years.
So I’m putting my free time on the line for a good cause. If people come in and donate, they can decide what I’m going to do every day. Extra writing on book 3 or playing Fallout 4.
Every day at 4:00 we tally the votes, and I livestream the winner. I wrote a blog with all the details on my blog.
NS: Nice! How has that been going so far?
PR: It’s been amazing. So many of readers stomped out and donated for Fallout. They’ve left hundreds of comments on my blog telling me I should relax and have fun. That they’re willing to wait for a good book, and they want me to be happy.
And the livestreaming has been a surprising amount of fun, too. You can watch it here.
NS: On your blog, you write a lot about raising a family while working as a writer. How do you find the balance between your writing and your family, or do you find that the precarious idea of a “balance” is a bit BS?
PR: Boy, your question has a huge assumption buried in it. You seem to think, I have this even remotely figured out. I don’t. I have no balance. My life is a hot mess.
NS: To think that we’re not all huge, flailing hot messes is another assumption.
PR: Heh. That’s fair.
NS: What about this: even if there is no balance, it’s still inspiring to simply hear a writer talk about and address some of the challenges (and joys) of working with two young kids at home. How have your readers responded when you’ve shared these small vignettes?
PR: Originally, I was reluctant to talk about my kids on the blog. I kept telling myself, “People aren’t coming here for stories about your kids. They want to hear about the upcoming books, writing advice, conventions…”
But it turns out people love those stories. My most popular blogs end up being the ones where I talk about being a dad. A lot of people have told me the only reason they’re on Twitter at all is so they can follow the #OotSays hashtag.
NS: And now, for some funsies! Around here, we’re all about the idea that books can be serious, but they should also be fun. What’s the most fun experience you had while reading?
PR: That’s a surprisingly difficult question. I spend so much time reading. It’s sort of like if you’d asked me, “What’s the most fun you’ve ever had eating?”
I will say the most raw joy I’ve experienced reading has probably come from the times I’ve been reading with my little boys. My older boy is six, and just recently, I got to see him understand his first pun. That’s priceless.
My younger son isn’t quite two. He just points at things in the books and says their names. Sometimes if I pause in a familiar book he’ll fill in the final word of the sentence. Yesterday we read Marvin K. Moony Will You Please Go Now! together. (He did the “Go Now!”) Today we were reading But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boyton and he did his level best to say: Hippopotamus.
And you know what? It’s absolutely fucking magical. Every time. It fills me with such joy. It’s the best thing in my life.
NS: You get to choose one favorite word for today. What is it?
PR: Probably “incarnadine.” That’s been my favorite for a while now. I’m not saying I don’t love other words too. I’m a firm supporter of the word polyamory. But that one is close to my heart.
NS: What is the charisma bonus that your (very, very voluminous) beard gives you?
PR: I’m guessing at least a +2 or a +3, but only for some skill checks. Like intimidation and persuasion. If the beard gives a modifier to seduction, I’m guessing it’s not a positive one….
NS: I have many guy friends who would disagree.
PR: Fair point. I have had a few gentlemen let me know they find my manly beardiness somewhat alluring. Never any ladies though.
NS: Finally, for the readers here, what’s one question you would ask them?
PR: “In the last couple years, what book has most touched your heart in these last few years?”
Then, as a follow up, I’d like to ask, “Have you told anyone about it? Given it a review?”
Here’s the thing: Authors live or die by recommendations. (That’s one of the reason I review so many books on Goodreads.)
Giving books you love good reviews is one of the nicest things you can do for an author. What’s more it’s good for the entire community. We need to read good books, and for that to happen, we need to share good books.